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Government & Politics

Ohio Gov. John Kasich Is Everywhere in Cleveland Except Inside the Convention

A photo of John Kasich

Ohio governor John Kasich could have been a keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in his home state. Instead, the former presidential candidate is running his own show at events throughout the Cleveland area without stepping foot inside the convention hall.

Ohio Public Radio Statehouse bureau chief Karen Kasler spent day two of the RNC trailing Kasich as he met first with the Michigan delegation in Cuyahoga Falls, took part in the International Republican Institute event at the Cleveland City Club, feted donors at the Rock Hall and met with the RNC's Hispanic coalition at a downtown restaurant.

Kasich's been busy but has so far shunned the convention itself, "and that's notable," says Kasler, "because he is of course governor of the host state."

Kasler notes that Kasich's former Congressional colleague and Trump supporter Newt Gingrich calls Kasich's stand-offishness "childish." 

Kasich and Trump
The divide between the governor and his party's nominee widened on the first day of the event when the Trump campaign's Paul Manafort called out Kasich, saying he was an "embarrassment to the state and himself," for not endorsing Trump. Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges lashed back saying Manafort didn't know anything about Ohio politics.

photo of reporters
Reporters in Cuyahoga Falls at the governor's morning event.

  Kasler says it's hard to gauge where things stand right now. 

"Kasich has not talked with reporters at all today, he's only been talking in these public speeches and he certainly hasn't mentioned [ the feud with Trump ] at all," says Kasler.

Kasich's message
Kasler says what Kasich has been talking about are the same themes he trumpeted during his presidential campaign: "party unity, bipartisanship, and for everyone to live a life bigger than themselves."

photo of John Kasich
Gov. Kasich at a reception Tuesday night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

  Kasich told supporters at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame today that he left the presidential race because he didn't want to dilute his message.

It's a difficult balance for Kasich who's trying to maintain party unity without backing his party's nominee.

"There are party leaders that are really putting the pressure on Kasich to actually endorse Trump, or at least back out of the way so that it doesn't appear that he's opposing him," says Kasler.

The long view
Why does Kasich hold out?  

Kasler says Kasich'spersistant anti-Trump stance may have as much to do with the 2020 presidential race as it does with #RNC2016.

"You can't look at what Kasich's doing and not see a little bit of that," says Kasler.

She says Kasich's courting of Michigan and Illinois Republicans in Cleveland this week is more than just Midwestern friendliness.

"You have to wonder what's behind that," says Kasler, "He's had presidential ambitions for many years, and you have to wonder if he's at least looking down the road at 2020."